Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl


A few days ago I woke up with a migraine. I took some medicine and went back to bed with a cold gel pack on my forehead. The headache did not subside. It got worse.

As I lay there, I became aware of the constant chatter going on in my mind. We all have that background thinking loop that plays and replays behind our conscious and directed thinking. My mind, when left to its own devices, explores the most random locations, relives the past, rehearses the future, ponders plots from TV shows, imagines dire events unlikely to ever happen, picks at emotional scabs until they bleed, considers strategies to manipulate uncontrollable people and circumstances, and basically never stops talking.

When the pain shut down my conscious thinking, my attention was free to observe what was really going on underneath. What I hadn’t realized before was how exhausting it is to run this ceaseless program in the background of our minds. It is like the drain on our electric power by leaving things plugged in that we aren’t using.

And even more surprising was how painful these thoughts were. It was like I could physically feel the impact that the thoughts had in my brain. With the hypersensitivity of the migraine, the thoughts felt like a little chain gang hammering tiny spikes for a miniature railroad.

Naturally, I wanted it to stop. I tried to make it stop. No luck. I felt a little panicky at the relentlessness of this habitual monologue. And then I heard a soft voice gently saying, “Rest.” For a moment, everything quieted. Relief.

It started back up almost immediately, but now I knew what to do. I stopped listening to it all, and silently whispered “rest.” Again, rest… rest… rest. Tenderly, lovingly, like a mother soothing a restless baby.

For moments at a time, my mind quieted. The pain of the migraine was still present, but there was a spaciousness about it, a peace. I rested with the pain, and with the reminders to my brain to rest with me.

Since then, I’ve been more aware of this chatter. During meditation I bring my wandering mind home with the mantra “rest.” When going through my day, as I start to get hooked by the drama of the moment, I can pause and remember to rest. Just rest.

I am fond of acronyms, so I’ll leave you with this one. You might come up with one of your own.


18 thoughts on ““Rest””

  1. Rest . . . Yes, Galen, our minds seem to act as an endless form of chatter and distraction, determined to keep us away from the silence and stillness our soul craves. And I find it so fascinating that in the midst of pain, you were able to experience such amazing healing. I'm so sorry that you suffer from the occasional migraine – I don't have them, but from what I understand from friends' experiences, they are excruciating. I admire you being able to find (or receive) the good in the midst of agony.
    Blessings, dear friend!

  2. Songs are coming to mind. Brock Zeman's "Until It Bleeds" from his album Me Then You. And from James Blunt's song "Same Mistake" – And one came back at dead of night, Said he'd seen my enemy, Said he looked just like me (from the album "All The Lost Souls"). I've become aware of my monkey brain that I'm afraid translates into some form of low-grade anxiety. I have to tell myself – enough; change the tape. Thanks for sharing this, Galen.

  3. Some of my greatest lessons have been when I was sick or in pain. There is an immediacy and a demanding presence at such times. The body is stopped in its tracks, and the mind at some point surrenders to what is happening. I know you have experienced this with your back pain. We learn that fighting what is happening just adds to our suffering. Now if we can just bring that wisdom into the rest of our lives! Thanks for commenting, Martha.

  4. Change the tape — that's a great image, Mona. We can't always silence our monkey brains, but we can teach them a "new song." Thanks for commenting.

  5. It wasn't until I entered my 50's that I was told about the mind chatter that I thought was me. Now I am just wetting my toes on the idea that I can ignore it. Sometimes it works. Yay for me.

  6. I have never suffered through a migraine, but I can imagine the feeling from your description. It matches the pain and disorientation that my wife describes when she is stricken.

    Quieting my mind has become easier with age. Without the pressure of earning a living, raising children, taking care of parents, or trying to always be available to others has given me the space to use your quiet approach when I find my mind chatter bouncing from thought to thought.

    REST…I like it.

  7. I was joking with someone that when you are really motivated, like with pain (!), you can figure out a way to calm your mind! Not a technique I can recommend, but it really worked for me.

    You are right that with age and a slowing down of life's demands, we can be even more aware of monkey mind, and it is easier to settle it down. You used the word space– I think that is the key concept right there.

    Thanks for commenting, Bob. Good to hear from you.

  8. 'The pain of the migraine was still present, but there was a spaciousness about it, a peace. I rested with the pain, and with the reminders to my brain to rest with me.'

    Sorry to hear that you have migraines,Galen. Some in my family have this condition. It is suffering in a way which can be very debilitating.

    You mentioned spaciousness between what was the pain and a deeper sense of your being and that you could rest in it.I believe it was you who had talked before about finding your center. I have experienced this spaciousness between my inner observer self and the continual vortex of thoughts, emotions, fear, anxiety and desires, which can affect us all. Its very hard to express in words. Its as if that is our point of refuge. This inner spaciousness may be what the Jesus character referred to as the kingdom of heaven. Buddhism calls it nirvana, a transcendent state of being where we can rise above suffering in all its forms. In Taoism it may be likened to finding Tao. Its very interesting this idea of spaciousness, most of the spiritual teachers down through history were aware of it. This space between our inner being and all of what we could call peripheral phenomena in our perception, is something we should, perhaps,pursue wholeheartedly . It may be the great treasure we are all moving toward. It is a place of rest where the soul can retreat.

    Very interesting post Galen

  9. Thanks, Brian. I'm practicing being able to enter that space without the motivation of intense pain — ha! But I have to say, pain is a powerful impetus. A tough teacher, but effective.

  10. I came across a related image for this chatter that we view as ourselves rather than the us in the place of stillness. it was something along the lines of 'the surface waves make so much fuss, but underneath is where the calm is' …so water related analogy. Pain doesn't seem to teach me any lessons, Galen,or I just haven't got that skill, but I do remind myself from time to time to appreciate not having any when pain free!

  11. Yes, that waves on the ocean is a wonderful analogy. And like you, pain is not my favorite or always my most effective teacher. But on a couple of occasions this year, after failing to escape the pain (usually my first response), I had little choice but to surrender and see what I could learn.

  12. Oh, I have been where you were many times. I used to suffer with migraines and would find myself doing the same thing. I liked your acronyms. Sometimes, praying will help me find that inner peace too.
    Blessings and hugs!

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